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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pitch Imperfect: The High Note is Cinematic Comfort Food, But Hardly Worth $19.99 VOD Price

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 5:23 PM

Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross in The High Note. - FOCUS FEATURES
  • Focus Features
  • Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross in The High Note.

Midway through The High Note, a music-industry rom-com in the mold of 2019's Late Night, (both directed by Nisha Ganatra), waning pop diva Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) laments the harsh reality for women in the music business.

"There have been only five women over 40 with a No. 1 hit," she tells her admiring assistant, Maggie (Dakota Johnson). "And only one of them was black."

This pivotal confrontation comes on the heels of a tense meeting with a handful of cocky record label execs who want Davis to agree to a residency in Vegas. It's guaranteed money for an artist of her stature, one who hasn't come out with a new record in a decade but who has at her disposal a reliable set list of hits. (She's something like an amalgam of Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez and a down-the-road Beyonce).

Maggie is not only Davis' assistant but also a devoted fan, the daughter of a radio DJ and a singer. And she's agitating for Davis to record new music for two reasons: she knows Davis has more to say, for one thing, but she also wants to be the one to produce the new tracks.

The narrative contours of the film are remarkably similar to last year's Late Night, the warm, predictable TV-industry rom-com written by and starring Mindy Kaling. The relationship between an aging successful female celebrity and an unlikely rising female talent are at the center of both films. But Late Night was much funnier than The High Note, the title of which prefigures its lack of authority and depth. (It might just as easily have been called Music and Lyrics or Pitch Perfect.)

Much like Late Night, the B-storyline is romantically inclined. Here, Maggie wants to boost her producing cred and convinces a young crooner whom she meets in a grocery store (Kelvin Harrison, Jr., from Waves and It Comes at Night) to let her take a crack at producing his original songs. As in other cinematic depictions of music producing, Maggie's work generally consists of adjusting a level or two and then bopping her head in satisfaction or reverie. In one scene, she gives a little pep talk to Harrison's David Cliff.

In spite of the script's relentless corniness, Johnson and Harrison have great on-screen chemistry as they veer into romance. Ditto Johnson and Ross, star of ABC's Black-ish. But several of the individual scenes (the grocery store intro, to take one example), to say nothing of the significant late plot developments, are so cringeworthy that even the performances will be unable to prevent rolling eyes.

This sort of broad, formulaic storytelling is cinema's version of comfort food. If not for the A-listers, The High Note would be indistinguishable from a Hallmark Channel offering. But the performances are indeed a cut above. From Ice Cube's diet-conscious manager who's got a nasty streak, but who really just wants to retire in Vegas; to Harrison's flirty but musically insecure David Cliff; to Ross' Grace Davis herself, the pop star living with the personal decisions of her past and the professional decisions of her future. It's not like you ever feel sorry for Davis, a mega-millionaire with an L.A. mansion who treats her devoted assistant like dogshit — a late tongue-lashing is shocking in its succinct cruelty — but Ross, the real-life daughter of Diana Ross, plays a layered and believable pop icon.

The film will be available Friday at the video-on-demand platform of your choosing. And, like other new releases this year, it'll cost $19.99 at the outset. (For the record, that's an outrageous price point that I personally would surrender to only under very specific, extreme circumstances. And I hope the studios, or the streaming platforms, or whoever's responsible, don't get away with it for long.) 

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Cleveland Cinemas to Offer "Curbside Concessions" Every Weekend, Now with White Claw

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 12:13 PM

Capitol! Capitol! - @CAPITOLW65TH
  • @CapitolW65th
  • Capitol! Capitol!
Encouraged by the response to last week's "curbside concessions" program, in which Cleveland Cinemas provided drive-through popcorn, candy and beer for sale at its area locations, the local movie theater chain has decided to expand the weekend offering.

Curbside concessions will now be available both on Friday afternoon/evenings (4-7 p.m.) and on Saturday afternoons (1-4 p.m.) until further notice. Additionally, White Claw hard seltzer will be added to its existing roster of beers.

“The response to our first Curbside Concessions offering exceeded our expectations,” said Cleveland Cinemas president Jon Forman, in a press release. “The feedback we received from our customers who miss coming to our theaters was warm and encouraging."

Customers should order their concessions ahead of time at (Orders must be received by noon on the day you plan to pickup.)

For those who want to support Cleveland Cinemas more conventionally, the chain will be debuting the film Military Wives in its virtual screening room Friday. The film, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Game Night's Sharon Horgan, was meant to be the opening night feature at the Cleveland International Film Festival. 

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Here's How You Can Stream Films from Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, and Toronto Film Festivals

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 2:27 PM

  • Travis Wise/FlickrCC
You don't need to be an A-lister or a foot-loving director to catch some of the many films that once hit the big screen at international film festivals. Hell, you don't even have to leave your house ... or your sweats.

Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has forced entire industries to a standstill, including those of TV, film, and theater. Some film studios have opted to skip theatrical releases all together while heading straight to streaming services, for which we are thankful because, really, how many times can you re-watch Avengers: End Game? (The answer is eight. Eight friggin' times.)

Anyway, some of the world's most prestigious film festivals, like Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca, and Toronto, have come together to curate a 10-day global film festival to be streamed for free on YouTube as part of "We Are One: A Global Film Festival."

More than 20 films spanning comedy, drama, documentary, and shorts have been selected for the streaming event, which will run from May 29 through June 7. A detailed schedule will be released closer to the event and is expected to include both new and previously released films, some of which may not have gotten the buzz they deserved when they had originally debuted.

The event will also accept donations from viewers to support the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Relief Fund.

This year's Cannes festival, which would have kicked off this week, may team up with fests still scheduled to take place later this year in Toronto, Deauville, New York, and Venice, rather than cancel the festival altogether.

Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux says Cannes had only been canceled once before, and that was due to World War II.

“I’m overcome with a great sense of melancholy and nostalgia. I’ve been going to the festival for 35 years. It’s my job, but beyond that it’s also an amazing convivial, human, artistic and gastronomic event, not just for me but for everyone who goes. Every year, we live an extraordinary experience,” Frémaux said in an interview with Screen Daily. “On a professional level, I’m facing an unprecedented situation, but with serenity.”

To see the updated list of films to be screened during the We Are One: A Global Film Festival, visit YouTube.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Cleveland Cinemas to Offer "Curbside Concessions" Friday at Area Theaters

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2020 at 2:47 PM

The Cedar Lee in an earlier era, (before the relocation of Parnell's). - CLEVELAND CINEMAS
  • Cleveland Cinemas
  • The Cedar Lee in an earlier era, (before the relocation of Parnell's).

Cleveland Cinemas is offering "curbside concessions" Friday afternoon to remind local movie goers of going to the movies. It won't be the same, of course, but you can pick up your popcorn and beer and then screen a movie from the Cleveland Cinemas "Virtual Screening Room," and comfort yourself in the knowledge that you're supporting a local chain.

“We know that some people have been missing our popcorn as much, if not more, than seeing movies on the big screen, so we want to make sure that everyone is well-stocked with their favorite movie snacks,” said Jon Forman, President of Cleveland Cinemas, in a press release. “We hope to be able to offer our curbside concessions on-going while we are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

The following packages will be on offer, which you can order online  between now and Friday and pick up Friday between 4 and 7 p.m. at the Apollo Theatre in Oberlin, the Capitol Theatre in Detroit Shoreway, the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights, and Chagrin Cinemas in Chagrin.
  • Curbside Popcorn ($6) - a giant bag of popcorn equivalent to our usual large popcorn and a refill!
  • Curbside Candy Combo ($10) - popcorn and 2 candies. Candy selection includes: Twizzlers, Raisinets, Airhead Xtremes, Sour Patch Kids, M&Ms Plain, M&Ms Peanut. 
  • Curbside Beer Combo ($14) - popcorn and 2 beers, (proof of age required at pick-up). Beer selection includes Stella Artois, Great Lakes Dortmunder, Great Lakes Burning River, Fat Heads Headhunter.
  • Curbside Movie Party Combo ($18) - popcorn, 2 beers and 2 candies, (proof of age required at pick-up).
Visit the Cleveland Cinemas virtual screening room to see what's available for your home entertainment.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Documentary About Clevelander Who Designed the First Pair of Ski Outriggers to Premiere on May 17 at the Vail Film Festival

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2020 at 11:50 AM

  • Courtesy of Katie Leimkuehler
A couple of years ago, locally based filmmaker Katie Leimkuehler wrote a screenplay about her late grandfather Paul Leimkuehler’s quest to create ski outriggers so that disabled people could ski.

The man has an undeniably remarkable story. A World War II veteran who lost his leg during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and built his own artificial leg, Leimkuehler went on to open a prosthetic business in Cleveland which is still run by his family today.

His outriggers got him into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, the U.S. Disabled Snow Sports Hall of Fame and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

While looking for someone to direct her script, Katie Leimkuehler eventually partnered with the production team TFA Group hat helped her bring the documentary film, dubbed Fresh Tracks, to fruition. It'll premiere on May 17 at the annual Vail Film Festival in Colorado. The festival has pivoted to an online format, and viewers will have the chance to rent the movie and watch it online that day.

“I don’t have a background in filmmaking,” admits Leimkuehler via phone. “This has been a learning process. I interviewed about 50 filmmakers and talked to them about the process and learned there was no straightforward path. Everyone had a different way of going about it. That was really helpful. I was fortunate that people wanted to talk to me and that gave me guidance in terms of what direction I wanted to take.”

After Leimkuehler locked in with a production company and director, the movie started filming last June and went into editing in December.

Since Leimkuehler’s grandfather died when she was only 8, she didn’t know him very well.

“That was part of the reason I wanted to tell his story,” she says. “I just learned about him from letters he had between him and my grandmother during the war. I learned more about his story as I made the film. He learned how to make prosthetics when he was in the hospital and made his own leg there. He used to be an engineer. He started making legs and even started giving advice to the doctors there.”

Her grandfather had never skied prior to losing leg. As the story goes, he was filming people skiing one day. The ski instructor told him he could ski too, and there was a film he could watch that would show him how. He watched the movie at the Cleveland Public Library and started making the outriggers. He and his friend, who was also an amputee, went up to a golf hill in the Metroparks and skied for the first time on the outriggers and loved it. Leimkuehler intentionally didn't patent the design; he helped people make them and sent the dimensions to people across the country that wanted to make their own.

In the end, Katie Leimkuehler hopes her grandfather’s story inspires others facing obstacles.

“I decided to make this film because my grandfather’s story reminded me that a challenge could be an opportunity,” she says. “He took advantage of a disadvantage. I want people to watch this film and think that they could overcome whatever challenge was in front of them.”

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"Fresh Tracks" Trailer from TFA Group on Vimeo.

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Friday, May 1, 2020

Bela Tarr's Seven-Hour Epic Sátántangó Available for Streaming in Cinematheque "Virtual Multiplex"

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2020 at 10:14 AM

  • Sátántangó
Tarrheads assemble! The Hungarian master filmmaker Bela Tarr's 438-minute epic, Sátántangó, has arrived at the Cleveland Institute of Art's "virtual cinema." Local cinephiles can support the region's only true arthouse theatre by streaming this opus from 1994.

Set in a squalid Hungarian village after the fall of Communism, Sátántangó tells the story of a farming collective whose residents dream of prosperity and escape from their drunken, desolate lives. Their hopes are transformed, though, when  a young Christlike figure promises to lead them to a better place. 

The Cinematheque assures viewers that Tarr's Sátántangó is "at once a monumental black comedy; a metaphysical allegory; a menacing mystery with an interlocking jigsaw structure; and a technical tour-de-force with virtuoso long takes, indelible sound effects, and an unshakeable mood of foreboding."

Given the unlimited amount of time many of us have at our disposal in quarantine, a seven-hour film shouldn't even sound all that intimidating these days. But no need to watch in one sitting. Through the "virtual cinema," (in this case, Vimeo On Demand), viewers will have 72 hours to watch and re-watch Sátántangó at their leisure. A portion of the $14.99 ticket price supports the Cinematheque, which is of course closed due to the pandemic. 

Two additional international titles, both of which sound fantastic, are also now available. Nuestras Madres is the story of a forensic anthropologist studying the genocide in Guatemala in the 1980s, and Jinpa is a Tibetan-language road-trip thriller.  

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Local Filmmaker Launches Collaborative Online Film Project

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 10:38 AM

  • Courtesy of Matt Pallotta
Ever since Ohio issued a shelter-in-place order last month, local filmmaker and business owner Matt Pallotta, who runs Frame One Media, has taken to making multiple short movies that address the complexities of quarantining.

“I’ve been doing video production and making indie films for close to two decades,” says Pallotta. “I went to Kent State for media production and have continued to work there as an adjunct for a decade.”

Two years ago, started his own production company and now makes films ranging from “corporate to commercial to industrial and everything in between.”

“Filmmaking is my passion,” he says.

Dubbed the Social Distancing Film Project, his latest effort involves dozens of professional and amateur actors from across the country. The project has helped him to form a virtual creative community and has expanded to involve a wide range of “creatives,” local personalities and actors who've been involved in large Hollywood productions.

“Early on during the quarantine, I made the short video ‘Manic Isolation,’” Pallotta explains. “I did it just for fun, and it made me realize how much I need to be doing creative stuff. I wanted to do something fun, but I can’t get actors and crew and the stuff I need. I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Having this positive outlet was important for me.”

He then posted on Facebook that he wanted to do a collaborative film project and asked who would be interested.

“I got an overwhelmingly positive reaction,” he says. “I started a Facebook page with all the content on it. I made some artwork and an intro video. About 100 people replied. I would give everyone a prompt and one involved a chase. It could be whatever people wanted. I wanted to keep things PG-13. Most of what was sent in was comedy. Since then, I did scenes and shot some stuff myself to build a narrative cohesive story, so it’s a film and not just disconnected vignettes. We have some people who know me and some really talented local actors and people from L.A. and the East Coast and everywhere in between.”

Pallotta has received some positive feedback from none other than comedian and filmmaker Bob Saget, who reviewed one of his short films.

“I sent it to him and asked him to review it,” says Pallotta. “He could have just said, ‘No.’ I told him to be as mean as he wanted and that he could roast me, but he was really sincere.”

At 8 p.m. on Thursday on Facebook, Pallotta will host an online watch party for the film.

“I don’t know what project is next, but I hope the people who collaborate with me on the film will want to do something in person once social distancing ends,” says Pallotta. “I’m an extrovert, so not being around people has been a bummer.”

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